When we picture a proactive approach to player development, many people see structure and methodical organisation as a sign of effectiveness. Stuart English, Birmingham City’s Assistant Academy Manager, outlines the importance of allowing players to take initiative and solve problems on their own if they are going to become truly unique and creative on the field.


Chaos is the monster we seek to contain within our structured lives. Chaos is adversity in ordered environments and can be defined in the dictionary as: ‘complete disorder and confusion’.

How then can this be welcomed into our lives, our work and, of course, our training? As coaches we love to see players acknowledging and putting into practice the points we discuss with them during training sessions. We love it when success is achieved and when carefully planned sessions depict an organised and aesthetically pleasing sight. Yet I question whether this should indeed be the ideal outcome. I believe successful player development isn’t simply the successful execution of the coach’s ideas and tactics.

We risk simply creating machines that are programmed to follow and execute instructions and who are devoid of initiative. After all, if and when a player you have coached progresses into the first team or into senior football, will you be by their side to tell them what to do in the game and how to do it?

It all comes down to what type of players you want to develop. Do you want to create risk-takers, problem- solvers and creative minds that will make mistakes but also produce magical moments? Or do you want to create a player who can follow instructions to a tee but potentially fails to adapt without instruction and is fairly limited with their skill-set? I believe that in England we are relatively good at producing the latter but not very good at creating the former. And part of the answer may lie in how we deal with chaos.

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Stuart English
Stuart English
Stuart English is the Assistant Academy Manager at Birmingham City Academy. Stuart has over a decade of experience in player development and has also worked as Head of Coaching at Brentford FC.
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